Justin Cremer, The Local
A Swedish daycare’s trip to the local library in Borås took an unexpected turn recently and ended in a police report being filled over racial agitation (hets mot folkgrupp).
According to Expressen, the daycare children were listening to a CD of various Pippi Longstocking stories when another library user became offended by the description of Pippi’s father as a ‘Negro king’ (negerkung).
The library user filed a formal complaint with police, noting that there were children of various ethnic backgrounds among the daycare group.
The head of the daycare institute, Marie Gerdin, described the incident as “sad” and said she had assumed that the library materials were appropriate for children.
“It is not in accordance with the daycare’s values,” Gerdin told Expressen. “This has caused us to review our routines in order to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.”
After the police report was referred to a judge, it was determined that there would be no further action.
This is far from the first time that Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking books have been labelled racist. The first four Pippi books were published between 1945 and 1948 and in addition to the description of Pippi’s father as a “Negro king”, the titular character is also at times referred to as a “Negro princess” (negerprinsessa) and Chinese characters are portrayed with exaggerated slanted eyes.
The racism charges have been fiercely rejected by Karin Nyman, the daughter of Lindgren, who died in 2002.
“[Pippi Longstocking] is not a racist. She is the opposite. She is not only ‘against adultism, grown-ups being in charge, and fiercely opposed to violence against animals’ she certainly is also against racism,” Nyman told the Guardian in 2011.
The push to censor the Pippi Longstocking books is often pointed to by those who argue that Sweden has taken its political correctness too far. This line of criticism is particularly prevalent in neighbouring Denmark, which tends to have a very different outlook on issues surrounding both race and free speech.
This had led to disagreements over everything from ‘racist’ bandages, art projects and toy catalogues to a long and drawn-out commotion surrounding the work of Swedish provocateur Dan Park, whose highly-controversial art was banned in Sweden but displayed in the Danish parliament building.
Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet used the latest Pippi Longstocking episode to take a jab at Sweden’s “outrage industry”.
As for the Borås library that was reported to the police, staff there said that it is important to maintain the original versions of Lindgren’s books but that they would take steps to make sure that children would not hear the potentially offensive words.
The head of the library, Åse Hedberg Karlsson, told Expressen that adults should be aware of the fact that times have changed.
“If you choose literature written more than 50 years ago for children, you can almost be guaranteed to come across language and things about gender, for example, that do not match our current values,” she told Expressen.
The Pippi Longstocking books have been translated into more than 40 different languages and have been adapted into numerous films and television shows.